Early this year I enrolled in a pottery night-class at Kaitaia College, but for various reasons, the class didn't eventuate. The College decided to arrange a one-off weekend workshop for those of us who were still interested, so off I went with great excitement.
Pottery is something I've always wanted to do, but have never quite managed to arrange for myself, but the time has now come. We did a lot of hand-work with the clay, and on the first afternoon had a demonstration on a potter's wheel, which we then tried for ourselves. I may have uncovered a hidden talent!
I'm going to join the regular Thursday pottery group and I'll be looking for a second-hand potter's wheel.
We made several dishes and bowls in and on plaster moulds, then in and around other items we found and then left them all to dry.
Pottery again today, and I had several more opportunities to practise on the wheel. I left promptly at the end of the day to get home to do some work with the cattle.
We decided to get the calves and cows in and weigh and vaccinate the calves today, marking their backs with paint symbols for identification so that I could match calves to cows and know which of the bull calves were the studs, who would not be getting rubber rings applied to remove their testicles!
Doing things this way (rather than weighing, vaccinating, tagging and castrating all at one time) means I can decide which calves get what tag numbers, and will enable me to use the vaccinating gun to give the cows a shot of copper supplement when they come back in again tomorrow.
This morning I went to see which calves belonged to which cows. They were mostly lying around, so it took a bit of following to see who went for a feed with which cow, or which ear was sniffed and which cows responded by licking those calves and so on. There are lots of subtle signs of kinship between cows and calves which are quite delightful to watch.
Isla's boy, above right, stood so his neck was draped over hers and licked her shoulder, but so entranced was I, that I didn't get the camera on the job quick enough to catch it.
Later when Stephan came home from work, we took them back in to the yards and put the cows through the race and injected the copper, then it was the calves' turn for tags in ears and rings on scrota (or scrotums if you prefer). We've not done so many calves all in one lot over the last few years, so it was fun to see them all together in a pen.
Then we left them to settle down for a little while in the grassy yard, while we went up the hill over the road to round up the three stud cows who have been up there for weeks and didn't come out when we moved the other cattle. Our neighbour needs to use his paddock on the other side of our boundary for grazing some cows with a bull, so he'd 'phoned to ask if I had any animals that might affect, on the our side of the fence.
Since it's high time these cows started mixing with the others of the herd to which they now belong, I decided we'd move them. They are three of the four we purchased from the Takou Bay Angus stud back in June, who have not calved this year, but which I will inseminate this summer.
This is my favourite bull of those we have here, Virago Quadrille 07 AB. He is thick and muscly, even though there has been little feed around for him during the winter, which means he's probably lighter and leaner than he might have been on a farm with better pastures. His calves are looking very good, both in their appearance and their growth rates, so I'll use him again this year.
The other bull of the same age is Lendrich 05 AB, who is a very different animal, looking very much as if someone's stuck the wrong back end on him! His EBVs are quite similar to Quadrille's, as was my original breeding intention, and his calves aren't bad, but they don't have the muscle conformation of the calves of the other bull. When they're head to head, the differences between them are quite obvious ...
Lendrich and Bernard 12 will need to go off to other places, either for breeding or for hamburger patties, since I don't wish to use either of them this year. Crispin 12 and Quadrille will be the breeding bulls for those cows I don't inseminate.
We moved the bulls and then went to check on the sheep, since we're starting to see some fly activity - we've already had to treat the ram for maggot attack! Some of the lambs are looking spectacular.
The ewe is Yvette, whose lambs so far have always been huge and male. This was one of the babies I had to help out of his mother right at the beginning. Sometime soon we'll have to have a look at them all and decide when they'll be ready to go off on a truck to become the fare of meat-eaters around the world. We plan on only keeping a small number of the ewe lambs.
Later this evening we moved Abigail and Demelza, 367 and her calf, Flower, Isis and the rejected baby into a paddock together, since feed is getting pretty short in their separate paddocks.
Demelza and the bull calf did a bit of sniffing and the cows didn't seem to mind being pushed together too much - they've been on either side of the same fence for a few days, so they've seen and smelt each other already.
There's been a lot of browning off in the paddock where we have the biggest rush problem, which Stephan wiped with herbicide a few months ago, so we decided to go out and be fire-bugs for a while this evening, since the weather has been so dry for so long.
Doing our bit to contribute to global warming. The flames, once they took hold, whooshed up through each rush clump, although never getting hot enough to jump from one lot to the next. Stephan had made up a couple of holey tins with deisel soaked sacking inside, which we used as torches to light our fires. The wind was strong and changeable, so we had to be a bit careful not to be standing in the wrong place when the flames flared up! When we stopped we couldn't see a lot of difference in the paddock, so we'll have to do that several times. The plan is then to wipe the paddock with herbicide again, to kill the remaining rushes. They are certainly a lot less thick and tall this spring than usual, so he's done a great job of knocking them back so far.